You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Health Top Stories

What should diabetic Muslims do for Ramadan?

Sydney Morning Herald logoSydney Morning Herald 16/05/2018 Roqayah Chamseddine

"Fasting in Islam is compulsory for adults that are physically and mentally capable of taking part in the spiritual observance." © Shutterstock "Fasting in Islam is compulsory for adults that are physically and mentally capable of taking part in the spiritual observance." Religious fasting traditions — from Yom Kippur, to Lent and Ekadasi — are intended to unburden believers from day-to-day compulsions, drawing them closer to their faith and their communities. The most recognisable among the world's spiritual fasting customs is Ramadan, observed by Muslims in Australia from Tuesday evening until June 14.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan means abstaining from a myriad of things, including from all drink and food — and yes, that even means water — from just before sunrise until just after sunset. Fasting in Islam is compulsory for adults that are physically and mentally capable of taking part in the spiritual observance. There is no obligation to fast for those who are sick, but oftentimes due to cultural pressures, family norms, and personal choice, Muslims will still commit to following through with their fasts. This includes those who are diabetic.

While, as of yet, there is no direct data available on the number of Australian Muslims currently living with diabetes, the number of Australians overall currently stands at 1.7 million, with 1.2 million “known and registered”.

In April 2017, the publication Diabetes Therapy published a literature review on the subject of diabetes and Ramadan which revealed that diabetes management while fasting “may lead to many potential health or medication-related risks for patients with diabetes who observe this religious practice”.

Fairfax Media spoke with educator Vania Khoury, of Diabetes NSW & ACT, about these risks as well as how those making a personal decision to fast may safeguard their health in the process.

Khoury explains that fasting from food and water, and omitting one's insulin, will have an impact on blood glucose levels (BGLs).

“If you are living with diabetes and choose to fast, potential risks include high BGL (hyperglycaemia, or BGL>15mml/L), low BGL (hypoglycaemia or BGL

If you are diabetic and planning on fasting this Ramadan, then Khoury recommends bringing this to the attention of your healthcare team in advance as it will give your doctors time to review your BGL, blood pressure, as well as your cholesterol.

This, in turn, will help them to assess the potential risks you face, and help you understand how to manage your BGL highs and lows. Due to there being extended periods between meals and feasting after Iftar (the breaking of one's fast) this can lead to greater swings in BGL, Khoury says.

“Your team can prescribe Ramadan-specific changes, in the dose and/or timing of your medications or insulin.”

Above all else, even if you decide to fast this Ramadan, you should not be forgoing your diabetes medication under any circumstances.

Vania Khoury has the following tips for diabetic Muslims fasting this year.

Proper nutrition is very important to help avoid health problems that may result from inappropriate food choices or overeating. Hydration is also key to staying healthy, so make sure you drink at least two litres every 24-hour period.

What Khoury describes as being the “healthy plate model” also applies during Ramadan, as it will help you maintain a good balance of carbohydrates (a quarter of the plate), protein (quarter of the plate) and vegetables (half the plate) and prevent you from overeating.

It is normal to feel hungry a couple of hours after the dinner meal. So instead of over-indulging on unhealthy treats go for health snacks such as 100-200g of low fat yoghurt, 1-2 pieces of fruit, a cup of low fat milk, a handful of nuts, or some hummus with vegetable sticks, all of which are good options to help you avoid overeating traditional sweets and high BGL after eating.

And lastly, Khoury advises that if you feel unwell at any time during Ramadan, check your BGL and be prepared to break your fast to treat your hypo symptoms or manage a high BGL.

For those choosing to take part, Ramadan is often a month of self-reflection, community building, and sacrifice, but this does not mean one should be putting themselves at risk in order to do so.

More from Sydney Morning Herald Lifestyle

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon